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Any doubts about the continuing political involvement of the Union-Tribune under Platinum Equity, its new owner from Beverly Hills, were erased two weeks ago with the appointment to the port commission of Lee Burdick — an attorney who herself arrived in town barely seven years ago — by the San Diego City Council on a 5–3 vote.

After dissing Burdick’s main opponent, Environmental Health Coalition head Diane Takvorian, for being a “hard-line” environmentalist, “to the detriment of economic development and job creation,” the U-T editorial went on to praise Burdick for her “unique experience both in environmental matters and business affairs.”

Beyond her support for expanding the downtown convention center, the U-T reported little else about Burdick, a registered Democrat who joined the downtown law firm of Higgs, Fletcher & Mack in September 2008 after briefly mounting a campaign for San Diego city attorney earlier in the year.

Before that, Burdick had been counsel and government affairs director for Jimsair, the troubled private air terminal operation that was fighting the airport authority over extending its lease at Lindbergh Field. The company sold out to Houston-based Landmark Aviation when it became apparent that it couldn’t get the terms it wanted, Burdick told the San Diego Business Journal last July.

And that, as far as San Diegans were informed, was the totality of her résumé. “I’ve been practicing law for 21 years on behalf of individuals and business people who have needed to navigate their way through government processes,” the U-T quoted Burdick as saying the day following her appointment.

But it turns out that Burdick has experienced her own navigation problems, as evidenced by a December 2002 Chapter 7 filing in federal bankruptcy court here that listed total debts of $487,022.65 against total assets of just $78,327.99, and $72,064 in unpaid personal income taxes owed the State of California and the federal government.

Burdick’s biggest creditor was given as Gus Anagnostou of Redwood City, California, to whom she owed $376,000 in a disputed lease agreement, over which Anagnostou was suing her in San Mateo County Superior Court, according to the filing. “100 percent shares” in Lee Burdick, PC, which the filing said was “out of business,” were valued at zero, as was Burdick’s “10 percent interest” in Prima Legal Services of Redwood City, also listed as out of business. Interviewed by phone last week, Burdick said she was forced into bankruptcy after the dot-com bust, followed by the economic aftermath of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, decimated the high-tech clients of her Bay Area law practice, where she had lived for nine years before moving to San Diego in 2002. As a consequence, she was forced to renege on her office lease with Anagnostou, who refused to modify the agreement’s terms. “It was huge and there was no way I had the resources available to me to pay it off.”

Burdick said she finally finished paying off the back taxes she owed to the State of California in March 2005 and to the IRS in November 2007. “If I were to say one thing about the bankruptcy, I think it gives me a lot of empathy for how hard it is for small business people and just your average Joe and Jane taxpayer to navigate through hard economic times. That was the lesson I learned from going through that experience. As traumatic and hellish as it was, I learned a lot, and I think I’m a better person for it.”

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Comments

JustWondering June 24, 2009 @ 3:02 p.m.

Does the City Council ever vett anyone these days or is it simply that the voters are so apathetic they, the council, knows there is no danger.

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JustWondering June 24, 2009 @ 3:05 p.m.

Wonder if she'll honor the contract she signed... or screw over the landlord and allow the bankruptcy to discharge the debt.

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SurfPuppy619 June 25, 2009 @ 7:51 a.m.

Wonder if she'll honor the contract she signed... or screw over the landlord and allow the bankruptcy to discharge the debt.

The article said she did not have the funds to pay the lease, and the landlord refused to adjust the lease, so she filed BK and the debt was discharged.

BK courts do not let you discharge debts due to fraud.

80%+ of all BK's are the result of medical bills and job loss, not a way to shirk legitimate debts.

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JakeSD June 29, 2009 @ 4:19 p.m.

Her BK shirked $72k in fed and state income taxes (and her future lease payments) and she was going to run for City Attorney?

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gardenparty June 29, 2009 @ 5:17 p.m.

"Burdick said she finally finished paying off the back taxes she owed to the State of California in March 2005 and to the IRS in November 2007" Doesn't sound like she shirked them at all.

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JakeSD June 29, 2009 @ 5:55 p.m.

Sorry she did pay them, 3 and 5 years later.

So she had a 21 years of law practice that resulted in zero assets and going out of business, she worked for Jimsair and failed to get the lease extended, then tried to run for city attorney before taking another job and using her connections to get onto Port Commission.

Not a stellar resume.

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gardenparty June 30, 2009 @ 9:30 p.m.

I read the article a little different than you do jake. It's hard to tell, from the way the article is written, which information is coming from the UT article and which is being added by Matt Potter. She hadn't been a practicing attorney for 21 yrs when she filed bk, (it reads as if she had her own practice for only 9 years), and with her landlord holding over 75% of her debt, perhaps she would not have had to file bk if he had worked with her. Since it reads like the debt was discharged, I guess he lost as well. I'm not familiar with bk laws, but perhaps our resident legal mind, surfpuppy, can answer this. If someone files bk for their business, how does that affect their personal assets?? So she was general council at jimsair, went to Ferris & Britton 2002 Higgs Fletcher & Mack in 2008 so it seems as if she has been practicing law the whole time she's been in town. My point is this. The only info given about her backround is about a bk filed almost 7 years ago, back taxes that she paid off and that she couldn't negotiate a lease with San Diego County Regional Airport Authority that jimsair would accept. Neither the ut or Matt Potter realy provided any info about her "resume" that says anything about her performance as a lawyer since she came to SD. That said, I always say it's not what you know it's who you know, as is apparent here.

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iantrowbridge1 July 1, 2009 @ 2:10 p.m.

The concern here should not be that Burdick recently declared a Chapter 7 bankruptcy although the amount of her debts suggest she did not exercise personal fiscal responsibility, but her failure to disclose disclose that to the public. There is no doubt in my mind she would not have been appointed to the Port District Board had she done so especially as Takvorian was an extremely qualified candidate. She, together with her fellow commissioners, are responsible for the stewardship tidelands from San Diego to Imperial Beach and millions of dollars of public funds yet she lacks personal integrity and financial acumen for the position. She should resign or the City Council should recall her for lying by omission to win her appointment.

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SurfPuppy619 July 2, 2009 @ 1:04 p.m.

The concern here should not be that Burdick recently declared a Chapter 7 bankruptcy although the amount of her debts suggest she did not exercise personal fiscal responsibility

I have no idea what her BK background is, but 80%+ of all personal bankruptcy filers are not fiscally irresponsible at all-but have fallen victim to either 1) medical bills or 2) job loss.

Has nothing to do with fiscal irresponsibility.

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SurfPuppy619 July 2, 2009 @ 1:05 p.m.

Her BK shirked $72k in fed and state income taxes (and her future lease payments) and she was going to run for City Attorney?

By JakeSD

Jake, fed and state taxes-like fraudulent acts- cannot be discharged in BK.

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JakeSD July 2, 2009 @ 4:35 p.m.

Surf,

I know she eventually paid the taxes, it says so in the article:

"Burdick said she finally finished paying off the back taxes she owed to the State of California in March 2005 and to the IRS in November 2007"

But she did not pay them on time and took 3-5 years to pay them off. (also not fiscally responsible since the taxes are based on previous taxable income she had earned)

Also, your premise that 80%+ of all BK's have to do with job loss or medical bills doesnt apply. She even stated her business slowed because of "dot-com" bust and aftermath of 9/11. So in this case it very much has to do with fiscal responsibility. You cant sign long leases and then just walk away when business slows down. (or she shouldnt have signed such an expensive lease in the first place).

If yopu dig deeper into the data about medical bills contributing to BK, most of those people have medical bills under $5,000 and only 14% have medical bills over $10,000, so those bills are usually not the primary cause of BK. You could look at the BK data and say that 95% also had credit card debt (and almost always for more than medical bills), so they "fell victim" to credit card spending.

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SurfPuppy619 July 2, 2009 @ 5:21 p.m.

If yopu dig deeper into the data about medical bills contributing to BK, most of those people have medical bills under $5,000 and only 14% have medical bills over $10,000, so those bills are usually not the primary cause of BK.

That is absolutely 100% False.

I don't have time to link to the facts, but Google Elizabeth Warren Harvard Law School, Bankrutcy and medical bills, then read and learn.

Medical bills and job loss are more than 80% of all personal bankruptcy filings.

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JakeSD July 3, 2009 @ 10:15 a.m.

"The medical debt causing these bankruptcies isn't overwhelming in many circumstances. Statistics available in 2003 are as follows: about 20% of bankruptcy filings involve a medical debt of less than $1,000; about 40% involve a medical debt of less than $5,000; and 13% of bankruptcy filings involve a medical debt of over $10,000. One would think these people could make some sort of payment arrangements to pay off the debt rather than file bankruptcy."

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JakeSD July 3, 2009 @ 10:29 a.m.

In that Harvard study only 34.7% of BK surveyed had medical bills greater than $5,000 or 10% of their income.

My point is unless you can look at their credit card debt, auto debt and mortgage debt you cant get the whole picture. For instance when a family buys a house with a $400,000 mortgage, has car loans of $30,000 runs up $50,000 in credit card debt and then has $15,000 in medical bills when they file BK, that would be classified as a "medical related" BK.

A better study would be medical bills as a percentage of their overall debt. Also what should be studied is credit card debt as a percentage of their overall debt. Plenty of people live within their means so if they have unexpected medical bills they can pay them with savings or excess income. When people are buying (or renting) houses they cant afford, shopping with credit cards and have high car loans, then they cant afford unexpected medical bills.

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JakeSD July 3, 2009 @ 10:34 a.m.

Credit Card Debt and Medical Debt More than one half of the debtors did not list any medical debt on Schedule F of their petitions.4 Their credit card debt was higher than that of debtors who reported medical debts, and was more than twice as high as for debtors who listed at least $5,000 in medical debt.

Conclusion Credit card debt is a significant factor in many bankruptcy cases, and nearly $20 billion is discharged in chapter 7 cases per year. Cases where the debtor has at least $50,000 in credit card debt account for nearly one-third of this amount. Credit card debt levels are particularly high among joint filers, high-income debtors, elderly debtors and debtors with no listed medical debts. They tend to be lower among low- to moderate-income debtors, female debtors, debtors under the age of 35 and debtors with very high medical debts.

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Ponzi July 7, 2009 @ 1:35 p.m.

Her BK shirked $72k in fed and state income taxes (and her future lease payments) and she was going to run for City Attorney?

By JakeSD

Jake, fed and state taxes-like fraudulent acts- cannot be discharged in BK.

By SurfPuppy619 1:05 p.m., Jul 2, 2009 > Report it

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Actually Surfpuppy, you are wrong. State and Federal taxes can and are discharged under the bankruptcy code. Look at the Chapter 13 code, of which more people are having to use since the reform. Although it is not as liberal withthe rules as it was before the 2005 bankrupcty reform act, millions of people still discharge a substantial amount of past due taxes, interest and penalties via Chapter 13. Hundreds of thousands of people also walk away from tax liabilities with an Offer In Compromise with the IRS.

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